Lancastrian in 2nd black family to move into Levittown

Theresa Mosby looks at newspapers reporting her family’s move to the Levittowndevelopment of Bucks County nearly 50 years ago. (Jack Leonard/Lancaster Newspapers)

When the Myers family moved into the Dogwood Hollow section of Levittown, Bucks County, in 1957, the mailman communicated the event.

"It's happened. (Blacks) have moved into Levittown!" he shouted as he walked up and down the streets.

Daisy Myers, the matriarch of that first black family, now lives in York. Fifty years later, she has recalled the taunts and threats, bricks and burned crosses aimed at her family.

When the second black family moved into the Orchard Drive section of Levittown in 1958, the reception was considerably subdued.

"Levittown takes Mosbys, 2nd colored family, in stride," reported the Philadelphia Afro-American that July.

Theresa Mosby, now an East Hempfield Township resident who periodically writes letters to the editor of this newspaper, was a member of that second family.

Mosby missed the move - she was born two years later - but she vividly recalls growing up in one of the look-alike houses of Levittown. The adults didn't bother her, but white children made her suffer.

"I was basically beat up every day at school," she says. "I got pushed down in the playground and hurt my elbow and had to go to the nurse."

Children taunted Mosby and her brother and sister. "Kids would say God left me in the oven too long, things like that," she recalls. "You know they got that stuff from their parents."

White adults in Levittown sometimes took direct action. Mosby's mother, Julia, told the Bucks County Courier Times in 1997 that white men drove to her home during her early days in Levittown and began yelling obscenities.

Julia Mosby grabbed a baseball bat, ran outside and began slugging the car.

The men left in haste.

The Mosbys moved from Levittown to Philadelphia when Theresa was 8. She expected better treatment there.

"After going to an all-white school and getting beat up every day, I thought moving to Philly would end that problem," she explains. "But I didn't speak the same and my complexion was lighter, so I got beat up again."

After graduating from high school and attending the now-defunct Spring Garden College, Mosby began working for Philadelphia National Bank. PNB purchased Lancaster's Hamilton Bank and sent Mosby to work here.

"We always made fun of Lancaster at first," she says. "There were no blacks here. But after 6 months I kind of liked it."

So she decided to stay. Mosby worked at Kunzler's Lancaster plant for 13 years. She has worked in Johnson & Johnson's Lititz lab for the past eight years.

She believes most Lancastrians are not racist. Her husband, Bob, is white and the couple finds Lancaster relatively accepting of an interracial couple.

"More people stare at us when we walk down the street in Philly than here," Mosby says. "I like Lancaster. I have no intentions of going back to Philly and becoming a statistic."

Mosby has been dismayed by recent racial problems at Warwick High School. She attributes much of the trouble to the same syndrome she faced in Levittown: children acting out parental prejudice.

"Kids being kids, they find something that bothers others and that's just a way to agitate," she says. "But children are getting their attitudes from somewhere. Usually it's from their parents."

From Levittown to Lancaster, Theresa Mosby has traveled a sometimes rocky racial road.

"All communities are pretty much the same," she says. "You cannot force a person to like another person. But race relations in general have come a long way."

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